equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Aug 13

not ready to stop

I take care of this moment by tak­ing care of myself. That means nour­ish­ing my sense of well-being by spend­ing time with peo­ple who:

Normally, the goal is to use the pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences from these rela­tion­ships to buffer my emo­tional resilience when things get rough, but right now I’m just try­ing to get to the point most peo­ple con­sider nor­mal.

It helps when peo­ple make me things like this. I had a Google search box as my browser start page for as long as I can remem­ber, until pre­sented with this board full of hap­pi­ness, where every update is rel­e­vant to my inter­ests. Tiana and Genevieve secretly col­lected cats for months before giv­ing it to me just because, and some­how there were 91 fol­low­ers before I even made a Pinterest account to fol­low this name­sake board. These are peo­ple who truly under­stand me, and make me feel con­nected even when I’m not with them. This is what I need more of in my life.

sitting in a cafe

We’ll get there some­day, cuz.

I’ve also been reach­ing into my past and search­ing for clo­sure, whether that means giv­ing or receiv­ing for­give­ness. It’s hum­bling to own up to my role in someone’s pain with­out mak­ing excuses or lay­ing blame to pro­tect my pride, but being able to do so has given me more amour de soi. Mistakes will be made on my jour­ney, but it doesn’t mean I’m a bad per­son, and it won’t stop me from becom­ing better.

Seeking res­o­lu­tion doesn’t always end well though. I’m try­ing to under­stand each response as a mes­sage about the true nature of someone’s role in my life, with­out being caught up in anger. It’s so much eas­ier to for­give or accept some­one when I start to under­stand their real­ity, even if they’ve hurt me rather unde­serv­ingly. I finally feel like I’m get­ting a han­dle on my inter­ac­tions with peo­ple, instead of con­stantly being at the whim of their behaviour.

dog by the door

 

It’s been a period of such tremen­dous growth in myself and devel­op­ment in my rela­tion­ships that it feels like I’ve been given a reprieve. I’ve been work­ing on all the lit­tle things I said I’d take care of when I was bet­ter, one day at a time. Just know­ing that I’m improv­ing in some small way is often enough to keep me going by itself.

I still occa­sion­ally get caught up on the idea that I need to be per­fect before start­ing down a new path, but Lisa always reminds me that the per­son I am already isn’t so bad. Growing is a grad­ual and life­long process. I can do the best with the per­son I am, and that’ll always be good enough.

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18 Nov 12

thoughtful things

I’ve always believed the best gifts are things we would want but wouldn’t buy our­selves cause we couldn’t jus­tify the pur­chase (regard­less of how much it costs), or some­thing hand­made by the giver. Good gifts also hap­pen just because, not nec­es­sar­ily due to a birth­day or hol­i­day. Lisa says this ideal makes me an intim­i­dat­ing gift-giver. John used to call me a pro­fes­sional con­sumer, cause I have a ten­dency to pur­chase what I want with­out hes­i­ta­tion, which I imag­ine makes me even harder to shop for.

Recently, peo­ple have been giv­ing me awe­some things for absolutely no rea­son at all, and each gift is thought­ful, prac­ti­cal, and just my taste. It must be really hard to find presents that will make me happy, but that just makes them all the more spe­cial when they do.

cat stuff

These were in my mail­box one night. The event was actu­ally a strip-spelling com­pe­ti­tion, and Shawn won “best strip­per”, the reward being the CD of cat purring. The other guy won the “best speller” award and got the book. They had to fol­low him out of the cafe and ask him for it, cause it was totally meant for me obvi­ously. Shawn has said I’m a cat for as long as I’ve known him.

double wall mini tea cups

I had tea with Heather in a cafe last win­ter, and we had a con­ver­sa­tion about design and how sat­is­fy­ing it felt to hold these mini teacups. Somehow, she remem­bered and found them and bought me a set. They’re mouth-blown so each one is unique, and insu­lated by double-wall borosil­i­cate glass.

book safe

Lisa got me this book safe, made out of an edi­tion of Ernest Hemingway’s Selected Letters, for secrets big and small. The choice of what book to use in mak­ing a book safe is very impor­tant, as it has to blend in with a library col­lec­tion, but also not be so recent or inter­est­ing as to make some­one pick­ing it up.

It has lit­tle mag­nets embed­ded in the frame and cover to make sure it stays closed even when stored ver­ti­cal. This lit­tle detail was what swayed her deci­sion to go with this par­tic­u­lar crafter, and some­thing you learn is very impor­tant if you ever try to keep your stash hid­den from…uhhh…cats.

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25 Nov 09

People Being Nice To Me

Tao Te Ching cover

Louise gave me a gor­geous copy of the Tao Te Ching. It’s trans­lated by James Legge, with clas­sic Chinese art from the Cleveland Museum of Art. What’s espe­cially cool is that the fonts used for the titles is Avenir, which is the same font I used for my sec­ond Tao tat­too.

Tao Te Ching page 1

It’s per­fect because I feel like I’ve strayed from the path lately. It’s been a few weeks since I picked up the book and read a few verses.

Tao Te Ching page 2

I really like the fact that many of the pages have no verses, and only art­work. It’s nice enough that I’ll prob­a­bly keep it out on my cof­fee table, instead of in my book­shelf hid­den in a closet1.

Bamboo bookmark

She also gave me this bam­boo book­mark, with a Confucian say­ing on it. I find it funny because Confucianism opposes Taoism, though they both have very good ideas.

Read the rest of this entry »

  1. Not that I don’t like to dis­play books, I just pre­fer to keep a neat house. []
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03 Jul 09

Tatiana's Gift Basket

Gift basket

More peo­ple need to give me presents like this.

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04 Jun 09

Feather Fountain Pen

Feather fountain pen

Pat and Jen bought me this feather foun­tain pen set from their hon­ey­moon to Europe. It comes from an Italian sculp­ture store, Fabris Giuliana in Venice, Italy.

Feather fountain pen writing

The nib is super fine; I don’t think I’ve ever owned a foun­tain pen with such a small nib, which is per­fect, because I tend to have small hand­writ­ing. You can’t even tell which direc­tion the stroke is going. So far it writes a lit­tle rough and scratchy, but with enough use, the nib will break in to my writ­ing style.

I’ve always enjoyed writ­ing. Not just the con­cept of putting ideas into more a tan­gi­ble medium, but the act of writ­ing itself, whether it’s on a key­board by night, or flow­ing lines on a sheet of paper.

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02 Dec 08

Christmas Wish-List '08

Updated tastes for 2008. Many items from my 2006 and 2007 lists are crossed out, which is why cat­e­gories like “fur­ni­ture” aren’t smaller now.

I’ve been told that I’m noto­ri­ously hard to shop for. Not only am I extremely picky, I have eso­teric (and expen­sive) tastes, and I usu­ally buy — and so, have — the things that I want. This year, I real­ized that good gifts are things peo­ple want, but which they don’t buy for them­selves because they can’t jus­tify the cost. It doesn’t have to be lav­ish, but maybe a lit­tle over­priced, some­thing you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily buy for yourself.

Photography

Housewares

Furniture

Gadgets

Games

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16 Nov 08

Birthday Surprises

My friends know I don’t cel­e­brate my birth­day, because I don’t believe in rit­u­als1. I went through most of Thursday with­out any­one men­tion­ing any­thing, aside from Louise call­ing me from the road, remind­ing me that we were going out for lunch the next day — which the three of us do on our birth­days at work.

So when I got home around 9:30 that night — tired and hun­gry after Tai Chi — I was sur­prised to find a let­ter taped to my front door. This let­ter lead to my birth­day game:

Then, before I went to bed, I real­ized I had two phone messages:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Hearing Dan and his fam­ily singing was awe­some, but hear­ing my dad’s voice was some­thing else. He had never called to wish me happy birth­day him­self; it was a day only my mom would remem­ber, and she would always pass the phone to him.

It seems like every year I expect noth­ing to hap­pen, but I end up being sur­prised in one way or another.

  1. And this was before I dis­cov­ered Taoism []
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27 Dec 07

Christmas Observer '07

Another Christmas with Shirley and her fam­ily, although this time Bill’s fam­ily came down as well. I spent Christmas Eve night and Christmas day at their house, par­tak­ing in the Christmas expe­ri­ence with those who believe in the impor­tance of such a ritual.

Presents under the tree

We were wrap­ping presents (from “Santa”) until mid­night on Christmas Eve. The tree must have been raised the two feet off the ground to fit every­thing under­neath. Negotiations went on through the night as to what time to wake up, but the kids woke us up at 6:30 any­way. Looking back on the pic­tures of 2005, you can tell how much they’ve grown in just two years.

Loads more pic­tures behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

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16 Dec 07

Christmas Wish-List '07

A look into my cur­rent tastes, updated for 2007. This list is some­what shorter than last years because the ones I haven’t checked off still apply, and I’ve been guilty of some spend­ing this month; The first two sea­sons of Robson Arms on DVD (which I des­per­ately waited two years for), sea­son six of Trailer Park Boys, my mit­tens, a RAZR 2 (the cell phone I’ve had for five years died), an elec­tric tooth­brush, and var­i­ous gifts.

Photography

Furniture

Housewares

Games

Movies/Shows

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13 Nov 07

Present for the 27th

Eric, who used to work with me, intro­duced me to Brant Bjork, and stoner rock in gen­eral, about two years ago. It’s a genre that explores delight­ful rep­e­ti­tion, where vari­a­tions are sub­tle, but pow­er­fully psychedelic.

[I]t is cer­tainly accepted that the effects of mar­i­juana and the often low or psy­che­delic riffs of stoner rock com­ple­ment each other.

—Wikipedia, Stoner rock

I liken the idea to Plastikman’s debut album, Sheet One. Though of a dif­fer­ent genre — trance — it fea­tures a per­fo­rated album cover, an homage to acid tab art, for which the LSD enhances the details of every sin­gle min­i­mal­is­tic beat (so I’m told).

While I’ve enjoyed Queens of the Stone Age, who are con­sid­ered to be influ­enced by the stoner rock move­ment (indeed, Josh Homme and Brant Bjork formed pio­neer­ing band Kyuss while in high school), the sound is a lit­tle more com­mer­cial, less droning.

After I heard a few songs by Brant Bjork, I was hooked. I never asso­ci­ated it with a mem­ory, which is what I do with almost all my songs, but it was good enough that I didn’t have to.

At Thanksgiving, dur­ing one of my trips through the mall with Andrew and Alex, I resumed my search for Brant Bjork’s solo album by the name of Jalamanta. It was a big­ger city, a big­ger place…maybe I’d have a bet­ter luck. Unfortunately, every music store gave me the same answer; it was an album they didn’t keep reg­u­larly in stock.

Alex asked me what I was look­ing for, the name of the album and artist, and I didn’t think any­thing of it.

Thumbnail: Brant Bjork

Yesterday, I found a pack­age in the mail. Fragile — CD, it said. Inside was the Brant Bjork CD I’ve been look­ing for, which they found at an inde­pen­dent music store. Along with the CD was a card made from my Pollen Junkie photo (which was taken in their gar­den), with a mes­sage writ­ten on the back.

And as great as it is to finally hear the songs I’ve been miss­ing, as nice as it is to have an orig­i­nal release, it’s noth­ing com­pared to the thought­ful­ness, the effort they made to find me exactly what I was look­ing for.

Update: Julie bought me a lucky bam­boo plant, along with a vase filled with dec­o­ra­tive rocks and a cute hand-drawn card. Very, very nice! Definitely an effort spent acquir­ing all these things, and much appreciated.

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23 Feb 07

Presents For Chinese New Year's

This week, I received a small pack­age from Brenda and Jack.

Thumbnail: Chinese New Years card
Thumbnail: Paper napkins
Thumbnail: Chopsticks
Thumbnail: Chopstick rest
Thumbnail: Guylian chocolates
Thumbnail: T'ai Chi Book
Thumbnail: T'ai Chi Page

It really touched me. Not because of the amount of things in it, but because of what was in it.

A T’ai Chi hand­book. Dark, thin choco­lates; my favourite kind. A chop­stick rest in the shape of a cat. They even put money in a red enve­lope, fol­low­ing the Chinese tra­di­tion of wed­ded cou­ples giv­ing money to the unmar­ried. Everything in a red bag with red wrap­ping paper, the Chinese colour of luck. This isn’t their cul­ture, but they’ve made the effort to under­stand it. They prob­a­bly had to go out of their way to find this stuff, things which aren’t avail­able just anywhere.

I’ve done noth­ing to deserve this.

The funny thing is that Brenda and Jack are the par­ents of an ex. I can hear John warn­ing me, “They laced the choco­lates with arsenic”. I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to get along with the par­ents of many of my girl­friends. I used admit to Pat that I wish they could replace my own.

It made me won­der if some­times, in the back of my mind, I would stay in those rela­tion­ships because of them.

These are peo­ple who know me and my interests.

More than my own par­ents ever did.

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25 Dec 06

Christmas Is Dead

This used to be my favourite season.

I don’t even know why. Christmas was always about tedious gath­er­ings. Each parental group of friends and fam­ily — con­sist­ing only of Chinese peo­ple — would take turns host­ing par­ties. As one of the “kids”, I was thrust in a room with the other sons and daugh­ters. People I only saw once a year, with whom I had noth­ing in com­mon. Some years, I’d go to six dif­fer­ent houses in two weeks.

My par­ents would always host New Year’s. Some time ago, with the money I earned from my first job, I bought them a classy fon­due set and fon­due book for them to use as hosts. They never opened the box, or even cracked the spine of the book. It broke my heart.

The things that peo­ple gave me never made things bet­ter. Gifts were always safe.

Monetary cer­tifi­cates. Sweaters. Cheap sta­tion­ary. Nothing per­son­al­ized. Nothing from the heart. Nothing I ever needed or wanted. It was merely a dis­play of how lit­tle peo­ple knew or cared about me. It would have meant more if they gave the money to charity.

The one reprieve dur­ing the hol­i­days was being able to see Darren, sneak­ing out in the mid­dle of a party to get stoned with him, or hang­ing out with John.

Then why did the hol­i­days mean so much to me?

Maybe it was the atmos­phere. The snow. The mem­o­ries of Christmas in Hong Kong. The fact that peo­ple who had noth­ing in com­mon would put up Christmas lights. Something that every­one believed in.

Thumbnail: Cat statue
Thumbnail: Magnets of my initials
Thumbnail: Catnip jar
Thumbnail: Mao, The Unknown Story

Even though I’ve received some beau­ti­ful, thought­ful gifts for once, even though I don’t really cel­e­brate Christmas, I’m down. It’s too warm for the snow to stay. I didn’t buy presents for any­one. I’m work­ing the short week between Christmas week­end and New Year’s week­end because I can’t afford any time off.

I sup­pose the hol­i­days are what you make of them.

There have been many gen­er­ous peo­ple — Louise, John, Aaron, Joel, Bronwen, Pat — who opened their houses to me today, but it’s not the same.

It’s made me real­ize that even though I loathed those gath­er­ings back home, I still needed them.

To feel like I was part of some­thing, part of a fam­ily, as dys­func­tional as it was. Because of the divorce, there’s no home to go to for the first time in my life.

Christmas is dead this year, but it’s only a reflec­tion of how dead I feel inside.

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01 Dec 06

Christmas Wish List '06

Thumbnail: Christmas cupcakes

You know it’s get­ting close to the hol­i­days when the fresh cup­cakes at the local bak­ery start hav­ing Christmas tree sprin­kles, so I thought I’d make a Christmas wish-list. Usually I have no prob­lem spend­ing money when I want some­thing, but I’ve been sav­ing my money as a goal lately. I’ve been good too, only spend­ing $120 on myself in November (two movies, a toque, and win­ter shoe spikes) as opposed to the $500+ I nor­mally do.

This isn’t a fan­tasy list by any means; these are prac­ti­cal things I even­tu­ally plan on buy­ing. I just can’t jus­tify get­ting them at this moment. Of course, I don’t actu­ally expect any of these things to show up under a tree on the 25th, since I don’t cel­e­brate Christmas, although this isn’t by choice.

Photography

Games

Furniture

Appliances

TV Shows

Movies

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